Defending champions Arsenal arrived at Old Trafford in the August sunshine. Normally the visitors would be the centre of attention but a portly businessman bumbled onto the pitch, juggled the ball before an adoring media and smashed it home in front of what was now his paying public. Michael Knighton was the new owner of Manchester United. Except he wasn’t as the deal crumbled as quickly as it had been announced.
Arsenal were the bystanders as the circus got into full flow. The rebranded Manchester United beer served below the terraces was simply awful; so was Arsenal’s defending in the opening minutes as Steve Bruce opened the scoring. Tony Adams gave way to Gus Caesar and it seemed Arsenal’s afternoon would go from bad to worse.
Except it didn’t. Well not immediately, at least as David Rocastle equalised and Arsenal showed the spirit one normally associates with Champions. Until that is, United scored again. And again. And again, running out 4 – 1 winners in the end. Neil Webb ran the show that afternoon, fresh from his transfer from Nottingham Forest. United lost three of the next four and failed to win a League match from 19th November 1989 through 2nd March 1990. The run began following a 3 – 1 win at Luton and ended with the same opponents beaten 4 – 1 at Old Trafford.
Arsenal by contrast recovered quickly to win five and draw two of the next seven, finishing fourth at the end of the season whilst United slumped to thirteenth as their quest for a first League title since 1968 ended in more failure.
And Knighton? He pitched up at Carlisle to own the club before talking with aliens.